U.S. softball hits walk-off HR vs. Japan

July 26th, 2021

If Monday's game between Team USA and Japan is a sign of things to come during the rematch for the gold medal on Tuesday, everyone better brace themselves for an Olympic classic.

Kelsey Stewart’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning -- the team’s first homer of the Tokyo Olympics -- gave the U.S. a 2-1 victory.

Both teams were already in the gold-medal game. Team USA earned the designation as the home team for the championship game with its victory.

Team USA (5-0) was held hitless by Japan’s Yamato Fujita until the sixth inning. That changed when Haylie McCleney, who is hitting .643 for the tournament, singled to left with one out. Janie Reed followed with an infield single before Valerie Arioto’s two-out single tied the game, 1-1. After U.S. pitcher Monica Abbott threw a perfect seventh inning in relief, Stewart clobbered Fujita’s second pitch of the inning over the right-field wall, setting off a celebration reminiscent of Saturday, when the U.S. walked off against Australia.

Starting pitcher Ally Carda kept Team USA in the game with 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball. That unearned run, only the second run allowed by the U.S. through five games during these Olympics, came in the first inning, when Saki Yamazaki scored on a passed ball. But Carda rolled from there in her first Olympic appearance on the mound. After that run, she struck out seven of the next 11 batters and saw only four balls hit past the infield before she departed in the sixth.

The game was played on Monday in Yokohama, Japan, when it was still Sunday in the United States.

Tuesday’s game will mark the fifth time that Japan (4-1) and the U.S. have faced off for gold. Team USA has won three of those games, but Japan won the most recent, in 2008. First pitch is scheduled for 7 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.